Creating a Coaching Culture

Creating a Coaching Culture_business team brainstorming discussing sale performance on white board while presentation in modern office room

Question:  Our CEO wants us to implement a coaching culture.  What does this mean, and how do we go about fulfilling their goal?

Coaching cultures are a really hot topic.  Leaders of organizations are concerned about employee engagement (which is hovering at all-time nationally low levels), retention, productivity, growth, and financial performance.  Feedback, performance management, and annual review processes come under assail for their out-of-date process and ineffective results.

I asked a dear friend and trusted advisor, Dr. Pam McLean, CEO and co-founder of the Hudson Institute of Coaching and prolific author (her most recent book: Self as Coach, Self as Leader is a must-read) for her thoughts on implementing a coaching culture.  I asked her four questions about her thoughts on coaching cultures.  I’ve tried to capture her responses fully; however, you are reading my interpretation of our conversation.

Coaching Cultures

  1. What is a coaching culture?

Coaching cultures are topics of functional currency.  They are genuinely cultures of employee development - with coaching being a medium or vehicle of employee growth. Research consistently and continuously report that people development is the best way to retain and engage employees.  Recognizing the importance of development (i.e., coaching) organizations are framing coaching cultures as mechanisms for developing, engaging and inspiring employees at all levels.

  1. What can a coaching culture offer?

With tenures shorter than ever before, there is pressure for change and goal achievement heightening the need to create scalable and sustainable solutions for development.  Further, we need to consciously adopt effective mechanisms when implementing change.  Traditional coaching engagements of ninety minutes every other week for a year may not be sustainable or scalable.  Coaching cultures can be a way to achieve different and positive outcomes quickly. For example, one of Pam’s clients offers coaching to high potential employees which include five sessions on one business issue or item.  The key here is FOCUS.   This is a great example of solving a specific problem, instituting a solution that can scale while offering a sustainable solution.  Why is this formation of coaching useful in this situation? Her client endorses coaching yet can’t wait for change to occur over twelve months.  Organizations need change, issue resolution, and personal development quickly.  This approach to development through coaching is a profound example of what is possible.  Coaching participants attack problems such as inter-team collaboration, project or relationship challenges, and skill development needs to name several.

Want to know more about Coaching Cultures?  Download The Resounding Cost of a Silent Culture

Companies value high engagement and drive development as it services the bottom line – meaning profits. Dr. McLean and the Hudson Institute report that they see coaching cultures serving all sorts of companies – tech startups, health care, insurance, financial services, to name but a few. Success breeds added interest and profitability improvement is a verifiable, measurable success metric that speaks volumes and influences the faintest of heart.

  1. What does it take to implement a coaching culture?

Pam was quick to respond to this question:  Commitment from the top is the primary ingredient in the implementation of a strong coaching culture.  A coaching culture must be one of the top few (remember the focus idea) strategic initiatives endorsed and advocated by leadership.  A coaching culture needs to be considered essential within the company and given an appropriate “voice” from leadership to the entire organization. 

This executive coach would also recommend you engage knowledgeable and well-trained coaching partners.  In working with one of my clients on reinforcing the need for team member performance coaching, I came upon a team leader shouting – “You are expected to do better.  Shorten your calls.  Increase new membership conversion.  Do it.”  Afterward, I pulled him aside and asked him what he expected to accomplish with that “pep talk.”  His response was priceless:  “I was performance coaching.”  This team leader clearly missed the training session on what constitutes effective coaching (FYI, shouting doesn’t qualify.)

  1. What advice do you offer executives considering the adoption of a coaching culture?

Dr. McLean offered several suggestions for those adopting a coaching culture:

  • Create enthusiasm – this can be tough going (remember, this is a change initiative, and change is often difficult). Celebrate adoption and changes in process to reinforce ongoing commitment.  The implementation of a coaching culture cannot be a one-time “event.” Instead, it is a significant change in how the organization will operate.
  • Define a well-developed roadmap for the coaching culture’s implementation specific to your organization. Each company, public or educational institution, needs to chart a course that is relevant to their world. One size does not fit all.
  • Be mindful of the organization’s starting point. This suggestion is equally applicable for those coaching individuals as well as for those chartered to implement a company-wide coaching culture.
  • Coaching efforts serve both individual leaders and the organization. This orientation is a significant shift observed in coaching culture transformations over the past couple of years.  Where coaches once were chartered to serve the individual leader anticipating that the organization's benefit would result from the leader’s improvement.   Coaching culture investments expect organizational benefit along with the leader’s growth and development.

Our reader’s question is one frequently heard.  For those considering a coaching culture, anticipate an exciting journey.  For those amid the implementation, stay the course – your reward awaits.  And if you haven’t considered a coaching culture – you should.  Development and engagement are changing forces, and those committed to success need to employ strategies best, guaranteeing you a positive outcome. 

Remember, learn something new each and every day!

Our sincere appreciation to Dr. Pam McLean for sharing her amazing wisdom with us!

Have a question for Dr. Winter?  Email her here.


NEXT:  HR's Role in Terminations


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